Young Fathers - Tape Two

It’s urban music in the strictest sense. Dark, bleak and foreboding.

Label: Anticon

Rating: 8

Edinburgh hip-hop trio Young Fathers’ ‘Tape Two’ sees the group diving ever deeper into their dark and bleak explorations into contemporary culture. In a world where social degradation is rife, Young Fathers’ resolutely anti-hedonistic approach strikes a chord for tough times.

Young Fathers represent hip-hop’s long held ideals of addressing and reacting to social ills. The trio of Alloysious Massaquoi, Kayus Bankole, and ‘G’ Hastings, use a multi-cultural approach to give their socially conscious rhymes a diverse sound. It’s an intriguing blend between the parochial and the multi-cultural. On ‘Tape Two’ the trio again show why they are such an alluring, yet mysterious, prospect.

The music here is scratchy, primitive and direct; at times oppressively dissonant. You could perhaps even call it industrial hip-hop. It’s urban music in the strictest sense. Dark, bleak and foreboding. Filled with dread.

Young Fathers’ resolute desire to keep their music primitive and free from studio polish is commendable. ’Tape Two’ has a grimy atmosphere all of its own, and there’s a nice contrast between the harshness of the sounds and the dynamic between the three competing voices. There is soul and heart present here though. You can hear it in opener ’I Heard’, a song which represents a search for a kind of spiritual salvation amidst the dystopian dread of 21st century society.

Elsewhere, the trio seem to revel in exuberant celebration despite the bleak visions of the lyrics. ‘Queen Is Dead’ is a brutally direct piece of dark hip-hop that sounds almost like a celebratory tribal ritual; the droning siren of ‘Mr Martyr’ provides another menacing backdrop set against the torturous yearning of the vocals; final track ‘Ebony Sky’ shows how far the trio have progressed since they emerged making ebullient party jams in Edinburgh in 2009. Here, there is a newfound feeling of grandeur that points the way to the future. It’s the sound of the trio striving for progression.

There is still a sense that ‘Young Fathers’ are a group that are developing their own sound and vision. ‘Tape Two’ sees them moving further away from a classic De La Soul template into something deeper and darker.